Thursday, January 14, 2010

Downtown Manhattan


I'm really having trouble with this post...

I was listening to two of the most recent Moth podcasts during my walk today; 
they featured stories by David Carr and Tony Hendra, performed in New York 
City before a live audience and without notes, as in what the Moth is all about. 
Before we go any further, here's some information about the Moth, now an 
institution of a kind:

“The success of The Moth is one example of
the phenomenon of storytelling that is gaining momentum
nationwide. In The Moth’s case, these narrative
sessions are fast becoming an institution.”
- The New York Times

What is The Moth?

The Moth, a not-for-profit storytelling organization, was founded in New York in 1997 by poet and novelist 
George Dawes Green, who wanted to recreate in New York the feeling of sultry summer evenings on his native 
St. Simon's Island, Georgia, where he and a small circle of friends would gather to spin spellbinding tales on his 
friend Wanda's porch. After moving to New York, George missed the sense of connection he had felt sharing 
stories with his friends back home, and he decided to invite a few friends over to his New York apartment to tell 
and hear stories. Thus the first "Moth" evening took place in his living room. Word of these captivating story 
nights quickly spread, and The Moth moved to bigger venues in New York. Today, The Moth conducts eight 
ongoing programs and has brought more than 3,000 live stories to over 100,000 audience members.
More details at where the information above was retrieved 
from. You can also find the podcasts on iTunes, and they come highly 
recommended by my humble self.
We all sometimes have these annoying bubbly things in our minds that keep on 
popping up in our thoughts, well after the event/experience/feeling/etc. that 
planted them has passed. In a situation relevant to this post, a one particular 
Moth podcast a couple of weeks ago, by an American poet/playwright/performer 
Edgar Oliver delivering his second Moth story, did it for me. It was called 'The 
Apron Strings of Savannah'.
This is how Dan Kennedy, the host of the podcast introduced the story:
"The story you're about to hear is by Edgar Oliver, and it was recorded back in 
January of 2006 at the Moth main-stage. The theme of the night was 'Last Exit, 
Stories About Endings'. And I should say this is our second story by Edgar Oliver 
that we've featured on the podcast, and when we did the first story, we heard 
from a lot of people from the site and e-mail and on what-not, that apparently, a 
lot of you thought that Edgar was an actor playing a part, and, let me tell you 
this, that I know Edgar and I'm seeing him around here a lot at the events in 
New York, and I'm here to tell you, that he's the real thing, that when you hear 
him, that is who he is. If you'd bump into him tomorrow on 3rd Street, and say hi 
to him, that is who you're gonna meet, so, today we'd like to present a story that 
Edgar calls 'The Apron Strings of Savannah', but we at the Moth would like to call 
'The Story about How Edgar Became Edgar'.

His story of growing up and becoming his own person in a this weird family unit is 
totally fascinating and absorbing, and it is so fantastic to have these odd, 
bohemian, in the true sense of the word, people still with us.

Edgar Oliver. Photo: ALice O'Malley

So, back to my trouble with this post: I was facing so many memories about the 
time I was living in New York City, downtown, on the 12th street, between the 
2nd and 3rd avenues (could have bumped into Edgar then!). It was just too 
much, too many memories... I guess it was about 10 years ago, but who's 
counting. I was doing some work for my U.S. client, a huge pharmaceutical 
company at their world headquarters in New Jersey, at 'Whitehouse Station' (this 
is a cheap giveaway: it was Merck & Co., which is Whitehouse Station, and 
its in the middle of nowhere, but that's another story).
The problem for me now is, what to feature here, in this post. It's obvious that 
Edgar Oliver is my starting point. Naturally I didn't meet him, he may even have 
been back in Savannah still, still being an ever so eccentric son to his eccentric 
mother, and a slightly less eccentric brother to his fellow soul, his sister.
Having made up my mind, I'm showing some photos of my landlady at the time 
(although I guess subletting was, and still is, illegal in New York City), Susan 
Tobocman. I got to know her through my friend, a budding actor and my work-
mate named Colin Attwood, who was getting singing lessons from Susan. 
Susan is a singer, obviously. A jazz singer as a matter of fact. During my stay at 
her place I was to look after her cat Max (a really really huge fat one, but that's 
another story again). She was off to Europe to record with Maximilian Geller, as a 
singer and songwriter.

Susan was working on a CD at the time I got to know her, and she gave me a 
cassette (remember those) recording of it. I really liked the title song, her own 
song 'Watercolour Dream'. And I was so taken by her dedicating this song on the 
stage to me when I went to see her perform at this bar in downtown Manhattan.

When I returned to Australia, I ordered the newly released CD on Amazon. Here are some images of it:

Peter Mihelich was Susan's boyfriend at the time (maybe he still is ?), and he has 
became a well known jazz musician in the States:

Peter Mihelich then.

Peter Mihelich now.

Susan Tobocman

Kaisu Koivisto
Edgecombe Avenue, Pleasant Plains, Staten Island, NY
From 'Cows in New York City' series 2005
Colour photograph, 41 x 51 cm, edition 1/6
Collection of Esa Jaske

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